Indeterminacy is not the same as randomness. Randomness is one form of indeterminacy. Willful volition is another. Willful volition is not random, simply because it can not be ascribed to mere statistical chance.
Raanujan akes a point simliar to what I was intending to make. You’re conflating the Copenhagen interpretation with QM itself. QM is simply a set of statements about how waveforms function. The CI is a philosophical viewpoint on what those statements mean, and is not integral to QM.
Stephen Hawking via Devil’s Advocate:
With all due respect, I think that Mr. Hawking is overlooking some hidden assumptions. AFAIK, all the experiments that “disprove” hidden variables require that the experienter have free will and/or a random number generator; therefore, to use this as evidence of free will/true randoness is circular reasoning.
We could be a lot more precise then that. The problem is the identity of this “ I “, and the identity of “what” I am.
i.e. we cannot find the “I “in consciousness that makes the choice.
“free” from its own nature?
There is no such thing as freedom from influence. And free will, if it exists, has a cause(s) which has a determining effect upon it.
In this world an effect has no freedom from its cause.
Two people cannot be identical in every way other wise they would be the same person, since there would be no distinctions. The mere fact that they are two implies difference in their choices. After all what is a “choice” ?
If we both choice to eat a whole apple, we eat different apples, at different times, at different rates, under different contexts, for different reasons: if we follow the reasons why we choose to eat an apple eventually we would come to different reasons.
We also choose to eat the apple a particular way based on the differences in our tongue, mouth and teeth, and the unique movements of our jaws and chewing patterns, and the way the apple is held and perceived etc.
We are responsible for our actions whether or not we have free will, because if it is all determined our responsibility is also determined. Such is our fate.
—Willful volition is another. Willful volition is not random, simply because it can not be ascribed to mere statistical chance.—
Sure… so lay out, even in utter speculation, what “willful volition” is that doesn’t run afoul of either prong I noted. That I wilfully choose something doesn’t in any way rule out that my will was determined. Indeed, once we even ASK what causal step comes before the will, we are stuck with either giving an answer to the question (it was determined by such and such) or denying the question (I didn’t actually choose, it was a random occurance). Perhaps there is another option… but what is it? Can you articulate it?
—Two people cannot be identical in every way other wise they would be the same person, since there would be no distinctions.—
But… that’s prong one: they make different choices… because they are different people. But being different people is not, at some level, something that people can be responsible for.
—We are responsible for our actions whether or not we have free will, because if it is all determined our responsibility is also determined.—
I agree. In fact, I posit that moral responsibility only makes sense if determinism is true. If we choose, without outside forces completely forcing us to pick one choice or another (and hence, are “free”)… then we are revealed for what we are (our “will”). Responsibility requires that we be talking about the will (not confused by a lack of freedom) but the will stems from our inherent character.
If we want to be better than what we “are” (or some limited understanding of what we are) then where does this want come from?
Sometimes I wonder if electrons just do what they want.
they sure aren’t positive about it!
Anyway, the OP is very interesting.
If I understand QM correctly, then doesn’t it imply that if you know the velocity and location of all the electrons in the world, you’d be able to predict the future; it doesn’t matter for a second or for a century. You’d be able to predict using calculations the movement of electrons, and hence, their path.
Both velocity and location of an electron (together) are impossible to obtain, but the knowledge is there; it is just impossible for humans to obtain it (uncertainty principle). Doesn’t this mean that the future already has a planned course of action, just unrevealed to us?
The movement of ‘the first particle’ in the big bang (assuming there was one) already charted the course of history.
OTOH, let me throw in another thought. IIRC, the chaos theory states that some particles are just impossible to predict. (can an expert comment on this?) Something about strange attractors. Now how’s that for a paradox?
Good, thoughtful comments. I’m still trying to work this through myself: thanks for your help, all.
Devil: You have done away with the problem by defining it away. There’s a lot of room between “completely determined” and “random”, in the sense it’s usually used (I.e. not your definition. For instance a loaded die might come up 1 25% of the time. When you roll this die, the outcome is not completely determined but it’s not completely random, either. Secondly, It’s not obvious to me that the only thing besides determinism is chance. Can you (or Apos) make the case more strongly? For instance, JT seems to be saying that “willfull volition” is neither determined nor chance. What do you say to that?
Apos: I think the burden is on you to prove that there are only two options: determined or chance. “Well, I can’t think of any others” isn’t a compelling argument.
It may be possible to have determinism and free will. But we don’t have determinism - to the best of our current knowledge.
Weak Force: These are sometimes called “Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen” experiments (try Googling it). Actually, hidden variable theories are only in contradiction with experiment if you rule out faster-than-light influences. The Bohm theory (AKA guiding wave theory) of QM is a hidden variable theory that gives exactly the same predictions as QM but requires instantaneous collapse of the guiding wave.
sotally: If you try to pretend that the electron’s postion is something, just not known, then you run into the problems of hidden variables theories (see above). The Copenhagen interpretation of QM therefore declares that the electron doesn’t have a position until you measure it. This may seem absurd, but it’s the position taken by many working physicists. It’s not the only option, tho: look up the “many-worlds interpretation” for example.
Chaos theory, contrary to popular belief, actually relies on deterministic physics. It says only that future behaviour of some systems is difficult (not impossible) to predict.
cat: I’ve often wondered the same thing…
And they are different people because they make different choices. I didn’t say they were responsible for being different people. You asked, “what explains the difference of their choices?” And I said because they are different people.
I experience the pain or the joy of the consequences of the choices I make whether or not I have free will. I pay the price and to that extent I am responsible.
The word “better” can take on many meanings.
The desire for change comes from suffering, love, boredom, anxiety etc. Or even change for change sack. We know change is going to happen and we have an invested interest in a preference for that change to go in one direction as opposed to another, i.e. we attempt to avoid pain, even though some times we make bad choices or don’t know what effects our actions will have. We guess because we have to.
But we may all be trying to get to love or god in a jagged off the chart kind of way whether we realize it or not.
The “real” motivator of our actions may be hidden from the conscious minds of many, in which case there may only be an “appearance” of free will. It raises the question of what we refer to with the word “self”, and whether that self is real.
Can a dreamt or illusionary character have free will?
—Can you (or Apos) make the case more strongly? For instance, JT seems to be saying that “willfull volition” is neither determined nor chance. What do you say to that?—
How can I say anything?
“I have something in my hand: it is neither an apple, nor an elephant, but it proves conclusively that I won the world series last week. Q.E.D.”
What am I supposed to say to that other than “well, what is it, and how does it prove what you say?”
—Apos: I think the burden is on you to prove that there are only two options: determined or chance. “Well, I can’t think of any others” isn’t a compelling argument.—
If I were arguing that we didn’t have free will, that would be my burden. I am arguing, however, that there is no such concept that plays the role that “free will” is said to play. The burden in defining a new concept is being able to distinguish it from other things. We have a grasp on the concept of determinism (though keep in mind: it’s ultimately only a presumption). We may have a grasp on the idea of non-determinism (I’m not yet convinced we do, but we can assume we do if you want).
So, if someone wants to say that there is some alternative, then we HAVE to produce and explain how it is different from those others. It would be amazing if someone could do so. I’d love to be the one that did so: I’d be instantly famous. But, for the purpose of this thread, the burden is on the person claiming that we have free will… to explain what it is that they think we might have.
It may even be that there IS something that, upon learning more about it, we might all agree is rightly called “free will.” But so far, I’ve not heard any such concept expressed. Someone says "well, we have “wilfull volition.” So I say: okay, so how does it work? What does it do that’s different from having a particular will that chooses (wihtout being externally forced to choose one way or the other) particular things according to what sort of will it is?
—It may be possible to have determinism and free will. But we don’t have determinism - to the best of our current knowledge.—
Depends on what you mean by determinism. We most certainly have macro-scale determinism at least on some level, or else the world wouldn’t even make consistent or coherent sense. But I most certianly agree that, at the very least, the world includes things that are both undetermined, and determined. Every event, indeed, MUST either be determined or not determined (either X or not X).
—Can a dreamt or illusionary character have free will?—
How can we say when so far no one’s explainedwhat free will is: what it does, what role it plays in anything? How does it provide an alternative, even in theory, to either a random or determined system?
Assume I have “free will.” If I were somehow able to disable my “free will” temporarily what would happen? What would change, either internally or externally?
—We know change is going to happen and we have an invested interest in a preference for that change to go in one direction as opposed to another…—
Like you say, the problem here is this “we” that keeps cropping up whenever the cause of a choice is being discussed. This nicely separates a “we” out from the choice being made (in this case the choice to change who “we” are!). But all that does is cause us to ask “well, how and why does THAT nwly minted “we” choose one way or the other?” Even just asking that question seems fatal to the concept of free will, because ANY concievable answer seems to undermine the “freedom” bit, and rejecting the question refutes the “will” bit.
“How do " I " choose one way or the other” ?
That’s the problem; in order to attempt to answer this question we have to address the prerequisite question,
"What do we mean by " I " ?
Other wise we don’t know what we are talking about.
If this " I " is a continuous steam of thoughts and images, how is it that this fleeting " I " can know, perceive or choose anything?
I think I possibly disagree, depending on how we characterize the will. If will is a non-material “thing” that has affects the material, then there may very well be a statistical distribution of willed choices over a set of individuals and specific choices which can be “predicted” by a representation of chance, even though each action in fact was willed.
Well, the degree of success is always in question but I would suggest: Intention.
I believe that if causality holds, then the evolution of the universe, including all decisions made by human beings, must obey probabilistic or deterministic laws.
If there do not exist non-material entities that influence material entities, then the laws of physics that describe the material universe apply without exception. As presently understood, those laws imply that given a perfect knowledge of the state of a system at some moment in time, one can describe, with perfect precision, a probability distribution giving the precise probability that the system will be in any given state at some moment in the future. This holds true across all interpretations of quantum mechanics of which I am aware, save those that hold that systems like “measuring instruments” or “observers” are somehow not bound by the rules of quantum mechanics. As such interpretations cannot give any coherent description of the universe, I prefer to ignore them.
If one regards a human being, isolated from his or her environment, as a quantum mechanical system, then application of the Schrödinger equation to his or her quantum state will give his or her future state as a function of time. The absolute square of this state is a probability distribution over all “classical” states that describes the probability that a measurement will have any given outcome. If this understanding of physical law is accurate, then I don’t see any room for free will. In principle, given exact knowledge of a person’s quantum state and the state of any systems with which he or she might interact, we could calculate exactly the probability that he or she will make any given choice when confronted with any given set of external circumstances. (This “given” is a big one, as the uncertainty principle means that it is impossible to gain such exact knowledge.)
If there do exist non-material entities that influence the physical world, then we cannot assume that human actions are governed by the laws of physics. However, this does not mean that they are governed by no laws whatsoever. Personally, I cannot imagine such a state of affairs. Future events are either determined based on present events or they are not. If they are not, then I argue that there must exist a distribution over all possible future events that assigns to each choice the probability that it will occur.
Such a probability distribution can, in principle, be defined operationally. First, consider a large (ideally infinite) number of identical copies of the universe, containing both all material entities and any non-material entities that could possibly interact with material entities. Let a certain amount of time pass, then look at the copies again. Assign to each outcome a probability corresponding to the percentage of copies in which that outcome occurred. In this way one could construct a probability distribution describing human choices, regardless of whether they are predetermined and regardless of whether or not they are influenced by any nonmaterial agency.
Given that it is possible (hey, I said “in principle”:D) to operationally obtain a probabilistic description of the future, regardless of what the metaphysical foundation of reality may be, there can be no room for any mystical “agency,” “free will,” or “purpose,” unfettered by logic, to influence anything in any matter whatsoever.
FriendRob, point taken on chaos theory. It was some time back since i last touched it. My apologies, chaos thery has no impact on this discussion.
However, about your point on hidden variables: last i heard, the EPR paradox was disproved by couple of solutions.
Here are a few different solutions just for variety.
(Also, check Bell’s Inequalities)
Doesn’t this mean that my position still stands?
Btw, I’m learning alot from this thread. THanks everyone!
The problem is with the premise: that the universe has a “quantum state”.
apos: I don’t know what you mean by “that there is no such concept that plays the role that “free will” is said to play.”
Free will itself is the concept. If you are arguing that that concept is incoherent, or self-contradictory, I would like to hear the argument. But to just declare it as a non-concept isn’t a legitimate argument. (I could equally well challenge your concept of “determinism” as being undefined.) At least, so it seems to me.
And here’s the problem: you can’t construct copies of the universe, even in principle. Unless you’re God. I mean, compare this with the analogous problem for classical mechanics: It’s possible in principle to determine the position and velocity of every particle in the universe. Well, we know how to determine the position and velocity of a particle, so in principle it can be done for every particle in the universe. But in the QM case, we don’t know how to construct even one identical universe, let alone an ensemble of them.
sotally: Thanks for the interesting links. I was thinking of the question “Can a hidden variable theory explain the results of QM?” rather than the original EPR question “Is QM complete?”
“Completeness” is really a philosophical question, since it all depends on your definition of “complete”. Working physicists are generally more interested in whether there are other theories that reproduce the results of QM without the interpretational problems.
An interesting experiment:
Benjamin Libet’s work focussed on measuring cortical activity during voluntary action. He showed that neural impulses controlling movement begin 500 milliseconds before the conscious intention to act arises.
So, if you’re told “press the button some time in the next minute” you actually get unconscious “build-ups” of free will which are subsequently “vetoed”, until you “allow” the button to be pressed.
Roger Penrose does a good chapter on QM & free will in “The Emperor’s New Mind”
—That’s the problem; in order to attempt to answer this question we have to address the prerequisite question,
"What do we mean by " I " ?
Other wise we don’t know what we are talking about.—
Exactly. The “I” is what we are trying to delve into. That’s why cutting it out of the equation to explain how we can “choose” is a waste of time.
—Free will itself is the concept. If you are arguing that that concept is incoherent, or self-contradictory, I would like to hear the argument.—
Then… what do you think a being having “free will” implies? What positive role does it play when a human being makes a choice? We already know what the weak, negative form of free will is: outside influences don’t force a particular choice. That’s uncontroversial. But that wasn’t what we were talking about. Instead, we are forced to ask: what is the will “free” from, if we are talking about internal intention? Itself? So… the will is free to act as it chooses. But why does it choose the particular way it does? That puts us right back where we started, still without any concept of free will other than the negative (which is perfectly compatible with determinism and undeterminism, but doesn’t help make sense of the claim "we choose free of our nature).
I really do make my best attempts at thinking through the implications of the concept to find it’s meaning, and I can’t find any. Maybe you can. If so, go ahead and explain what it is.
—I could equally well challenge your concept of “determinism” as being undefined.—
You could… but so what? Not only do you seem to know what determinism is, but what it is is of dubious importance to this discussion since rejecting determinism doesn’t make things any better. For the record, I am not a determinist. But you seem to be saying that determinism is either false, or cannot be proven, which is very different sort of thing from what I’ve been saying.
I’m saying: here. Have any metaphysics you like. Speculate utterly without bounds, purely in hypothetical theory. Can you make the concept work, make it say anything more than “the will is free from external coercion”?
—It’s possible in principle to determine the position and velocity of every particle in the universe.—
I may be wrong, not knowing enough about this subject, but I thought that this no longer thought to be true?
Indeed, even in the classical world this would be impossible since you cannot determine any such quantity to an infinite number of decimal places, and sooner or later that next, unknown decimal place will make a difference. This is the heart of chaos and complexity.
—So, if you’re told “press the button some time in the next minute” you actually get unconscious “build-ups” of free will which are subsequently “vetoed”, until you “allow” the button to be pressed.—
What are “build ups of free will”? As “TC” notes, Libets rationalization after the fact doesn’t help us, it just asks a new question about the antecedents of the desire to veto.
I found that experiment quite unsettling: it seems to imply that the decision to move is made BEFORE I experience myself “deciding to move.” Equally unsettling are the experiments in which experimenters use eletrodes to stimulate skeletal nerves and induce movement… with the strange result being that the subjects describe having decided to move their arm. (described in Oliver Sacks A Leg To Stand On)
This doesn’t prove it, but it seems to suggest that it’s at least possible that someone could control your decisions, yet you wouldn’t know it: you’d experience yourself had choosing the things that he did. Or maybe even there is no real difference: to say that he chose would also be to say that you chose, destroying the distinction between choosing freely and being controled.
Free will may not exist - any attempt to prove it does ends in failure.Neurologists say they can predict what our “free will” will do 0.5 second before we do - in other words our subconscious mind takes the decision (through instinct & some externals) first, then we rationalise it with our conscious mind & call that free will.
—Neurologists say they can predict what our “free will” will do 0.5 second before we do - in other words our subconscious mind takes the decision (through instinct & some externals) first, then we rationalise it with our conscious mind & call that free will.—
This is not necessarily a disproof of free will in any real sense. If free will has the implications it’s said to, it doesn’t necessarily matter whether the choosing is conscious or not: it just matters how the choice gets made.
What’s unsettling about those experiments is that most of us are used to thinking of the “voice” the “awareness” as ourselves, and assume that it is making the decisions. What this experiment suggests (but does not prove) is that, while we can still identify with that awareness, it is not necessarily involved in the making of decisions, but may perhaps be an effect of some other unconscious process that is deciding things. That is, “the experiencing” of deciding might not be causaly connected to the deciding. Since the debate over “Free will” whatever it is, is about how “deciding” works, even a conclusive proof that experience is divorced from the process of deciding would be beside the point.